Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant plans to appoint state agriculture commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran, three Republican sources said.
Hyde-Smith, who would become Mississippi’s first-ever female senator, would hold the job until a November special election in which voters will select a candidate to fill the remaining two years of Cochran’s term.
If Hyde-Smith runs to keep the job, it would set up a three-way showdown with Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel – who has already announced his candidacy – and Democratic former Rep. Mike Espy.
The special election, held on the same day as this year’s midterm elections, comes with a unique twist: There’s no primary, and candidates will run without party labels. If no one breaks 50%, the top two finishers, regardless of party, would advance to a runoff.
Hyde-Smith, a 58-year-old beef cattle farmer, served as a Democrat in Mississippi’s state senate before switching parties.
The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, reported that Hyde-Smith met privately with Bryant on Monday night before the two walked into a reception together. Bryant’s office didn’t immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Cochran, who was first elected to the Senate in 1978 and has faced health issues in recent months, recently announced that he is stepping down from the Senate on April 1.